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Posts Tagged ‘Gotham Book Mart’

Remembering the Bookseller to the Stars

Though Frances Steloff has been dead for nearly twenty years, her orbit looms large in Saratoga Springs, the city of her birth, as the Saratoga Post-Star’s Lisa Bramen uncovers. Steloff left the city when she was 12 – famously founding the Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan in 1920 – she kept strong ties to the city throughout her life. In 1968, the year after Skidmore College awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Steloff endowed an annual lecture series and poetry prize there. She later donated a collection of rare books, many first editions inscribed to her by the authors.

Steloff sold Gotham Book Mart in 1967, and those who knew her are glad she wasn’t around to see the store go under, but also lament that another bookseller like Steloff is not likely to come around again. “The name Frances Steloff doesn’t mean anything to most of the students or even the younger faculty,” said Robert Boyers, director of Skidmore College’s Summer Writer’s Institute and organizer of the annual Steloff Lecture. “It;s just a lecture series to them. I think it’s lovely that once a year we honor a great writer and at the bottom of the program there are a couple of paragraphs about Frances Steloff. That can’t begin to convey what the bookstore meant to people. It’s something, but it’s not much.”

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The Morning After Gotham Book Mart’s Auction

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Yesterday’s auction by Gotham Book Mart gets serious coverage from the New York Times and the NY Post this morning. And even though the line of prospective bargain hunters went around the block before the auction’s 11 AM opening, in the end all the property that was auctioned went to the building’s landlord for $400,000. The store’s owner, 74 year old Andreas Brown, got teary while removing books from the shelves in his office. He left before the auction began. “It’s a bit like interviewing me at my own funeral,” said Brown, who has a penchant for quoting Mark Twain, to the New York Times.

But some people wonder if the auction was, if not rigged, at least set up as more of a smokescreen. Reports the Fine Books & Collections blog, “the rushed sale, held with only two days’ public notice, now seems as if it were intended all along to ensure that the landlord would acquire the contents. Inside, the books were arranged in group lots with titles like “wall of books” and in stacks of boxes that were virtually impossible to inspect during the 90 minute pre-sale period.” The Post also collected some disgruntled quotes. “If you’re going to have a proper auction, you open for a month,” complained Dave Roochvarg, a book collector who met his wife at Gotham. “Nobody knows the value of it, because nobody’s got to look at it. There was no way in an hour.” Brian Bilby, a book dealer, said he could think of only two words to describe the scene: “sad spectacle.”

Gotham Book Mart Goes to Liquidation

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The New York Sun reported yesterday
that Gotham Book Mart, the venerated bookstore and attraction for many of New York’s literati, is up for auction today. Five floors of books, photos, and literary memorabilia – along with more mundane office furniture and bookshelves – will be sold at the behest of the city marshal. “It’s a sad ending to a very famous store,” James Cummins of James Cummins Bookseller, who once worked at the original Brentano’s, a block north of Gotham’s former location on 47th Street amid the Diamond District, said. In 2004, Gotham moved to 16 E. 46th St., the site of the former H.P. Kraus bookstore.

The Fine Books & Collections blog has more after speaking with the auctioneer, Elliot Millman. He said that it was a difficult situation and that it was his job “to recover the judgment” for the landlord, who is owed “between $500,000 and $600,000.” He said he expected the contents to be sold to a single bidder – “that’s the way I think it will go,” he said. Millman said the landlord planned to give any buyer of the entire contents until June 8 to vacate the premises. But anyone who wants to watch the proceedings must be aware that the entry fee to get inside is $1000 cash or certified check. “This is not a gallery sale like at Christie’s or Sotheby’s,” Mr. Millman said. “This is a sale by the City Marshal.”